The Gilroy Unified School District buildings and staff were intertwined with the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting July 28 almost from the minute shots were fired.
Hundreds of students, staff and parents were volunteering in booths in Gourmet Alley, the targets of the spraying bullets that night. Nearby Gilroy High School became a floodlit command center as medical staff and police interviewed survivors, and officers cordoned off the high school’s neighborhood searching for a possible second shooter.
“We started working the night of the shooting,” said Supt. Deborah Flores, who volunteered in the wine garden earlier in the festival. “It impacted all of us in one way or another.”
“The following morning, July 29, we opened Christopher High School as a counseling center and it operated all week 10-12 hours a day,” she told a national radio audience on Aug. 2.
“We also cooperated with police and FBI and opened a second center at Rutger Elementary for the victims,” Flores said on the KQED “Forum” show. “Hundreds of our students, their families and community members came in to see counselors, sometimes multiple times because they were so traumatized by this event.”
“It’s rocked our community.”
“Our focus has been on our students and their families,” she said. “We’ve had just literally hundreds of students come to our counseling centers.”
Preparing for first day
“Counseling is a big part of what we’re doing that first day of school,” Flores said last week. “We know we’re going to have students coming to school upset. We know we’re going to have families anxious about dropping their children off and we’re going to support them in every way that we can.”
The Gilroy district will provide training to all staff members on Aug. 12 on trauma and behavior and counselors were to be available at all sites Tuesday for all staff members.
Rebekah Children’s Services, Community Solutions and the Santa Clara County Department of Behavioral Health, will have two counselors present at all 15 schools Aug. 14-16.
“The counseling has just been an amazing response from our community-based agencies that know our kids; families stepped up to the plate and dedicated their counselors to the counseling that was going on at our school sites,” Flores said.
Flores said extra security and additional police officers were added for the first week of school.
School Resource Officers were to be onsite at Gilroy and Christopher high schools.
Campus supervisor hours have been extended at Mt. Madonna High School. District Office staff were to be deployed to all of our elementary and middle school sites, to be highly visible at drop-off and pick-up at least through the first week of school.
Miller Avenue, at Uvas and Luchessa, and Christmas Hill Park will be closed until further notice. The district and City of Gilroy expects this closure to impact traffic flow at most school sites and along the Santa Teresa corridor. Parents dropping off and picking up children at Solorsano should use Club Drive. Families with students at most other school sites can expect to have their commute times impacted due to the Miller Road closure and Christmas Hill Park closure. Please plan accordingly and leave plenty of time to travel.